Sunday, October 03, 2010

A Visit with Thomas MacEntee

Miriam Robbins Midkiff and Thomas MacEntee. Spokane, Washington. 2 October 2010. Privately held by Miriam Robbins Midkiff, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Spokane, Washington. 2010.

I just came away from a busy and exciting weekend as my local genealogical society, the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society, held its annual October Workshop with well-known geneablogger Thomas MacEntee as its featured speaker!

Since I was at work when Thomas' flight arrived, EWGS 3rd Vice President Cecily Kelly was kind enough to pick him up from the airport and drive him to his accommodations at the historic Spokane Club. After I got off work, we all met up at Anthony's at Spokane Falls for a great seafood dinner on the terrace overlooking the falls of the Spokane River. It was a gorgeous Indian Summer day, and the three of us had a good time talking about our own genealogy, the future of genealogical societies, and what the Next Big Thing in genealogy might be.

EWGS Members. Spokane, Washington. 1 October 2010. Privately held by Miriam Robbins Midkiff, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Spokane, Washington. 2010. 

Next, we headed over to the downtown branch of the Spokane Public Library so that Thomas could give his new presentation, "Building a Research Toolbox." This was a members-only presentation, and we had about 40 people in attendance. You can see some video footage I shot that evening posted on Thomas' blog here. Thomas explained why a person would need a research toolbox, what the different kinds of toolboxes (or containers) there were, what kinds of tools (or content) would be stored in it, and how to organize the information. I especially liked the wikis as a type of toolbox, and MediaWiki certainly caught my eye. Another tool that looked extremely useful was Link Valet, a link checker that will make sure all the URLs in your blog or document are working and not broken! If you would like to see one good example of a research toolbox, Thomas has one set up on his blog here. I prefer to use my Google Toolbar's Bookmark feature for mine, as it is accessible from nearly any computer, anywhere.

 EWGS Members and Thomas MacEntee. Spokane, Washington. 2 October 2010. Privately held by Miriam Robbins Midkiff, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Spokane, Washington. 2010.

The next morning, we were at the library bright and early to prepare for a day long workshop of four presentations. There were about 65 people in attendance, including some from Northern Idaho, Northeast Washington, and the Tri-Cities area of Southeast Washington, representing societies from those areas. After registration check in, the welcome, and some EWGS business, Thomas began his morning presentations, "Facebook for Genealogists" and ""Become a Genealogy Blog User." There was a lot of audience interaction and they were very attentive to his presentations.

At the lunch break, those who had pre-registered received their box lunch from Apple Spice Junction, and those who had not either brown-bagged it or stepped out to one of the many eateries nearby. Then it was time for the afternoon presentations, "Building a Genealogy Blog" and "Google Docs for Beginners." In most day-long workshops, the audience tends to be a big tired after sitting all day, as well as a bit drowsy after lunch. However, these afternoon sessions were pretty lively, as many seemed especially interested in learning how to start a genealogy blog and using Google Docs. As a long-time Facebook user and geneablogger, most of the information presented in the first three lectures were not new to me, but I enjoyed seeing it presented in an easy-to-understand format. Despite the fact that I am a frequent Google Docs user, I did learn a few new things, and was especially happy to see how versatile the Forms feature is!

After the workshop, Thomas and I tiredly said our good-byes. He is staying another day, spending time with a first cousin (and her daughter) on his father's side from North Idaho, meeting them for the first time. At the workshop, he kept everyone well-entertained, engaged, and begging for more! I received numerous e-mails in the last 24 hours from various attendees who were so impressed by his teaching and were very grateful that I had suggested that he be our October Workshop speaker. We even had a couple of members begin their own blogs this weekend!

Thomas was a big hit here in the Inland Northwest and has a standing invitation to return. He let us know that he would be happy to be back, live or virtually, anytime. Thanks for a great workshop, Thomas!

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